Alp d'Huez

by Shades   May 30, 2014  

In 2 weeks time I'm going to make the pilgrimage of cycling up Alp d'Huez (with others). To ensure that I've 'been there, done it and got the T shirt', what are the key things to tick off (finish point, drink in a bar, cheesy phot, T shirt etc etc) so that I don't return home having missed something and beating myself to death (so long as I survive the climb). I've got a spare day in that area, so are there any of the other numerous climbs worth doing (Galibier, Croix de Fer)? Any 'pitfalls'? I heard of someone blowing all their inner tubes on the descent by braking too much.

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It's rubbish mate, wouldn't bother, the whole region is bobbins. None of the other climbs are worth it easier.

Bitter jealousy out of the way, here are my bits of advice:

Tourist information in Bourg D'Oisin do a TimToo timing chip which costs a couple of Euros to hire, plus a returnable deposit and you can also purchase a certificate when you return it.

The first five or six bends are the toughest, so don't go guns blazing at the start or you risk blowing before the top, just get in to your rhythm and build up. After that you can open it up a bit more depending on how you feel.

The first village you get to isn't the top, even if there is a "finish line" there. Keep going, then through the short tunnel and over the roundabouts, you'll then see the monument thing on the right hand side of the road where the finish line is.

There are plenty of places to grab a beer at the top, thankfully you wont have the big set up at Dutch Corner to tempt you on the way down but I;d recommend taking it fairly easy. We got stuck in to the beer there last year and two of us had a very hairy, bravado filled first turn after. That brief moment when you realise you don't have enough braking power on your hoods and have to completely release the brakes in order to get on the drops to start grabbing fistfuls of brake will make your arse twitch like a rabbits nose.

When descending, stay on your drops, not your hoods.

Turn 14 (I think, not 100%, it's a right hand turn on the descent) offers a great view across the valley so is a good place to stop have photos on your way down (or up if you like).

If you smoke, buy them in Bourg D'oisans, I got absolutely violated when I bought 20 Marlboro and a lighter from a shop at the top, think it was about 11 or 12 euros.

Jammy sod, enjoy it.

posted by farrell [1281 posts]
30th May 2014 - 16:18

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Basically everything Farrell said above.

As for blowing tubes and tires it's a distinct possibility on an alpine descent, don't don't don't drag ur brakes.

I've descended on a road bike an mtb and in a car......
my cars discs were hot enough to stink and turn water to steam when I got to the bottom
My mtb hydraulic fluid boiled

By the time I descended on the road bike I'd learnt my lessons , alternate ur braking if u want to semi drag before applying both hard enough to scrub enough speed to get round the bends

Another good climb and descent is the col d'ornon as descended in last year's tdf and there is a bar/ restaurant at the top

posted by chiv30 [848 posts]
30th May 2014 - 21:06

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All the above advise is good. I would say don't skimp on the water on really not days, you will suffer before the end.

Most of the other surrounding climbs are worth a bash, but some are further away then others. I really enjoyed Croix De Fer, Lauterer Galibier and D'Ornon

Specialized Allez 2009, Campagnolo Centaur 10, Campagnolo Shamal Wheels. 8.3kg

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posted by Miles253 [193 posts]
31st May 2014 - 22:25

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There is a really popular cafe bar with cyclists that you cannot help but notice. As you get close to the top of Alpe d'Huez there are a few shops/bars and this place is next to the new Trek store - it's on your left hand side as you near the top and called the Indian, or Indiana, or something like that! It has a a long bike rack out the front and chairs outside to sit back and watch a few fellow sufferers arrive.

This is also the arrivals point for the official timing chip, if you rent one. You don't need to though, the start point and finish are clearly marked with sign posts so you can use your garmin or computer.

As Farrell says though, if you've come this far don't stop here - carry on under the bridge and follow the road for a further 200m of climbing. This takes you up to the ski station, large car parks and hotels and is the finishing point used in the Tour. Better views up there and a stream of pure cold water you can refill your bottle if you want.

Depending on your fitness you are looking at 60-90 minutes, so I don't think you'll need anything more than one bottle to get you up there.

As the other guys said, do not ride your brakes all the way down. Get your braking done on the straights between hairpins, so that you keep full control on each bend (if you brake on the bends it's harder to steer, but you probably know that). It is a stunning descent, just relax and enjoy it.

As for your other free day, you are spoiled for choice! The climb to the Col de la Croix de Fer is simply stunning. It's a really tough challenge, long, steep in places and open to the wind. The view from the top is utterly breathtaking though, and you may well see a few marmots sunbathing as you get nearer the top! If you ride this all the way from Bourg and back it's a 50 mile round trip, but half of it is downhill of course.

If you don't want such a physical challenge, a less demanding and quieter climb is the col d'ornon. It's just 8k from bourg and is a beautiful climb, usually dead quiet other than the cow bells.

Best advice is to get straight to the tourist information and get the free guide to bike routes. It is awesome and details every climb in detail and with a few suggested routes so you can judge your mileage exactly

posted by sorebones [103 posts]
31st May 2014 - 22:57

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..also - in terms of memento's, there are usually 2 photographers permanently based on Alpe d'Huez who will snap you as you round the hairpin, then shove a card in your hand with a special code. You can then log in to a website and download your photos, or one of them has a shop in Bourg you can pop in to if you prefer.

posted by sorebones [103 posts]
31st May 2014 - 23:00

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This is the t-shirt, get it when you come back, or get it now like me (one day I might do it myself, was there watching in 2004)

Between the S and the LOW

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posted by bikeboy76 [1182 posts]
1st June 2014 - 23:44

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Many thanks for the comments which were all very useful. Thought I'd finish this topic off with my own tips now that I've completed the climb. Fantastic day and I urge anyone to get out there and do it; reminds you why you love cycling. Thought I was in some parallel world as I was cycling up with a vintage car club (Ferraris, E type Jags etc) coming the other way, passing an english couple in a recumbent tandem and was met by masses of cyclists at the top all celebrating their achivement. A good tip was to start early before the heat gets going (we started around 0830) as I'd been in the Vosges in the run-up and had made the mistake of cycling later. Doing a Cat 2 in a 45 mile ride with melting tarmac really isn't fun. We stayed at Chateau d'Oz which is a few miles up the road from Bourg (shorcut back to there from around turn 6). It's a great Chalet Hotel style place geared up for cyclists. When we got back from the Alpe, Andy (owner) greeted us with a tray of beers and said the Dauphine was all set up on the huge TV. The hairpins are great places for a 10 sec 'coast' and a swig of water which sets you up for the next leg. Gearing wise, a standard compact and 12-28 cassette was fine for me, although I did spot a lot of triples and people who had tuned their gearing to suit the climbs. In the general euphoria of the Alpe, watch out for the locals who fairly belt around in their vehicles and assume you'll get out of their way. Nobody bothers with bike security but a French group did have a bike stolen while we were up there. On our other day we went up the Col d'Ornon which is a pleasant 8 mile climb with a coffee stop at the top.


posted by Shades [172 posts]
23rd June 2014 - 11:16

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The ride from Alpe d'Huez to col du sarenne was one of my favourite. Its a small little road that snakes its way high up in the mountains and offers stunning views. Then you get the col du sarenne decent which is both spectacular and scary!! If your staying bourg, consider this as a route back down the mountain, or if your staying in the ski station and fancy taking on the galibier, go via this way.

posted by Scoob_84 [184 posts]
23rd June 2014 - 12:03

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